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Original Mother's Day aim was substance, not sentiment

Spring: a time for renewal, new hopes, and growth. The darker days of winter have now given way to soft breezes and gentle rains. The days are longer, bringing, for me, a sense of relief and excitement when the green buds and flowers begin to appear.

May also means Mother’s Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of the month. Most of us manage to get our greetings cards in the mail on time, send flowers, or call. In fact, according to History.com, more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year with phone traffic spiking by roughly 37 percent.

There is no doubt that Mother’s Day, as with other major holidays, has been turned into a financial bonanza for the card companies, florists, and such, but it is wonderful to let Mom know we care, however we choose to do it.

Mothers have been honored since the Greek and Roman days, but one modern variant of our Mother’s Day can be traced to 1870, when Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragette, wrote her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” as a reaction to the horrors of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War.

Her proclamation is not a flowery tribute to the joys of motherhood. It is a strongly worded woman’s plea for peace “in the name of womanhood and humanity.”

Her proclamation calls for “… a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

Ms. Howe also asks, “Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.”

I had never read her words in their entirety, and it is interesting to reflect on the intent of her Mother’s Day Proclamation: a recognition of the devastation and sorrow war brings, the very real need incumbent upon us to try to live in peace, and that women’s voices are, by their nature, an imperative part of this equation.

Yet, here we are, some 150 years further down the timeline of history and our politicians are sounding off daily with bombastic warmongering and saber-rattling. Has anything very much changed since Ms. Howe took pen in hand and wrote with such passion?

Yes, let’s please do let Mom know that we love her and are thinking of her on this Mother’s Day (and other days of the year, too). And, while we’re at it, perhaps we can also keep in mind the sentiments of Ms. Howe and continue the struggle for women’s voices for peace to be heard loud and clear in the hope that women will one day have equal seating at the tables of the powerful, where the decisions to declare war are made.

— Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at bit.ly/adtssmm. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at susannewebsite@olypen.com.